Since 1987, thousands of volunteers have scoured the shores of Massachusetts through COASTSWEEP, the statewide beach cleanup organized by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). These dedicated volunteers collect and document “marine debris,” the technical term for trash and other discarded items that end up in the ocean and the coastal environment.

Thank you to all of the dedicated volunteers who helped make the 26th COASTSWEEP successful. In 2013, 2,660 volunteers cleaned 118 sites (more than 138 miles), removing more than 28 tons of debris! See the COASTSWEEP 2013 data sheet for complete results. And here are some highlights from specific cleanups:

Constitution Beach - 2013
  • On September 12, COASTSWEEP’s 2013 Marketing and Social Media Intern, Jeff Ellis, headed out to a late-summer cleanup at the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Constitution Beach in East Boston. It was a beautiful 80-degree day—all warm sun and cool breezes. This unique cleanup spot is right next to Logan Airport, with planes taking off and landing continually. Jeff met up with cleanup coordinator Pam DiBona and the other volunteers for a quick briefing and distribution of trash bags, gloves, data cards, and pencils. Jeff was expecting a lot of trash—food wrappers, bottles and cans, plastic utensils— but from afar the beach looked relatively clean with only a few large items to be found, mostly bottles and plastic bags. But after a closer inspection, Jeff realized that there was still a lot of cleaning that could be done. Cigarette butts and small pieces of plastic and glass were literally every few inches across the entire quarter-mile-long beach! The volunteers’ data cards quickly filled with tallies for cigarette butts and plastics. For further details, see A Last Gasp of Summer - Perfect for a COASTSWEEP Cleanup at Constitution Beach on the Mass Great Outdoors Blog.
  • Massachusetts Baykeeper Sweep 2013
  • The Massachusetts Baykeeper cleanup, which was coordinated by Executive Director Brianne Callahan and held in cooperation with DCR and UMass Boston, yielded the greatest quantity of trash. At this one cleanup, volunteers collected more than 19 tons of material from the shoreline surrounding the Savin Hill Yacht Club in Dorchester! The debris was mostly wooden and metal items that had washed up in the cove over the years. According to DCR and staff at the yacht club, the majority of this waste was left over from U.S. Navy target practice in the 1950s-60s. (See the large wooden block with the metal loops in the picture to the right for an example.) Although the volunteers worked hard and were able to clear away a large portion of the debris, more still remains to be done.
  • In the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, 30 volunteers removed two tires, a railing, a luggage rack, and a gas grill as part of the 23 bags of trashed removed by during a COASTSWEEP cleanup on South Cape Beach in Mashpee and Washburn Island jetties in East Falmouth (both part of the reserve).
    Waquoit Bay COASTSWEEP 2013

Cleanup volunteers tend to find some strange items that are not typically associated with beach trash. For 2013, weird items included a 25-pound weight, a broom, a window air conditioner, a $5 bill, a skateboard, a pink plastic whale, and a last, but not least, a wedding gown (which was found by Mass Audubon at Dowses Beach in Osterville).

Now that all of the data have been collected, the number one debris item tallied was, once again, cigarette butts. Volunteers reported collecting approximately 40,699 cigarette butts—a more than 10% increase over 2012. Food wrappers and containers were also fairly high, with a reported 12,235. Also, 38 appliances were found, which indicates some illegal dumping issues.

Clearly much more work is needed to help people reduce the trash they generate and the trash that ends up on our shorelines—but thanks to all who participated in a 2013 COASTSWEEP cleanup, the Commonwealth’s coast is definitely cleaner.

Thanks again!

-The COASTSWEEP Team – Anne, Arden, Denise, Jeff, Patrice, and Robin